Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 Book #22 - Thomas Jefferson

tjContinuing with my goal of reading all the Presidential biographies, I completed President #3 - Thomas Jefferson.

This one was interesting. Not quite academic, it’s a look at each section of Jefferson’s life, a stretch of years that influenced him. As I read the book, I’m less enamored of the man. While he accomplished a lot, I find him to be much more flawed than I did when reading his autobiography. I’ll have to go read that again.

Jefferson was raised privileged, and went into law. As with many of that time, he didn’t go to law school, but studied with another lawyer, who then chose to sponsor him to the bar. He wasn’t much of an orator, like Patrick Henry, but he was quite accomplished at the written and analytical side of the law.

While he seems to have strong ideas on freedom and a desire for the US to be an agrarian society, he also allowed for slaves, a strange mix that haunted him. He was a prolific writer, sending thousands of letters out during his lifetime (he kept copies), but somewhat embarrassed by the public release of some of his letters that contained controversial topics.

I was surprised to read about him as emissary to France after their revolution, which Jefferson saw as inspired by ours. I didn’t realize he was Secretary of State under Washington, as well as Vice President under Adams. He didn’t want to run, but friends had him try and he narrowly lost. His own election in 1800 was narrow, over another Republican (not Adams, a Whig). That case went to Congress and the Supreme Court for resolution. Interesting.

He also lamented his lack of influence with Washington, which I think had to do with his lack of oratory skill (my guess). He certainly retired, but struggled financially as he tried to remain a “gentleman farmer”, trading debts and obligations, rather than managing a successful business.

An interesting book for #3 in my Presidents series.

No comments: